Tuesday, March 23, 2010

PACE rapporteurs welcome pardon decree in Azerbaijan

Three rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have welcomed the decision by President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan to pardon 70 prisoners, including Ganimat Zahidov, the editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Azadlig. However, they regretted that Eynulla Fatullayev, another opposition editor, was not among those released.

The Assembly has repeatedly called for the release of both men, along with others it considers political prisoners or whose cases it has been following closely, and its rapporteurs have visited them in prison.

“Every step made by Azerbaijan in this direction helps bring the Council of Europe closer to its aspiration of being an area free of political prisoners,” said Andres Herkel (Estonia, EPP/CD) and Joseph Debono Grech (Malta, SOC), co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Azerbaijan, and Christoph Strässer (Germany, SOC), rapporteur on the follow-up to the issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

They pointed out that President Aliyev had already pardoned 99 prisoners by decree on Christmas Day 2009, including some whose cases had been raised by the Assembly, or who appeared on the lists of alleged political prisoners drawn up by local human rights NGOs.

“Together with the latest pardon, this reveals an encouraging trend, and we sincerely hope that Azerbaijan will make further progress on fulfilling the key promise it made when it joined the Council of Europe: to release all political prisoners,” the rapporteurs said.

Press Release: PACE. Published in Strasbourg on 22 March 2010

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